BICYCLE MAYOR GURUGRAM – SARIKA PANDA BHATT

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The Bicycle Mayor program is part of a global initiative by Amsterdam based NGO, BYCS to promote bicycle-friendly policy initiatives in the hopes of achieving 50% of a city’s transport through bicycle by the year 2030.

Know more about the Bicycle Mayor Program in India

Bicycle Mayors are the human face and voice of cycling advocacy in a city, and the global program connects these change-makers across a global network to create greater visibility and facilitate the sharing of knowledge, ideas, challenges, and solutions to create a truly radical shift.

Sarika Panda Bhatt, Bicycle Mayor of Gurugram

Say Hello to Sarika Panda Bhatt, the Bicycle Mayor of Gurugram. Gurugram has become one of India’s most modern cities, boasting state-of-the-art public infrastructure and plays host to some of the biggest Multi-National Corporations in the world, and has steadily seen the population explode in the last decade. Making it the perfect city to incorporate cycle-friendly infrastructure given its abundant space, and if you want to have space in your home, getting a 806 folding ebike could be the best solution for you.

SARIKA’S BACKGROUND

Sarika is a qualified architect and urban planner and has become the face of the cycling movement in Gurugram during the last 7 years.

She is the co-founder of Raahgiri Day, an initiative started by her and a few other residents of Gurugram in 2013, with the goal of promoting sustainable mobility options such as cycling and walking. With the motto being that the streets belong to all, not just cars.

SARIKA’S CONTRIBUTION TO GURUGRAM’S CYCLING COMMUNITY

Sarika’s journey with Gurugram’s cycling community at large started in 2013 when she started the very first Raahgiri Day. A car-free day which advocates residents to take up sustainable modes of transportation like cycling and walking.

Children Participating in Raahgiri Day!

The impetus of this movement was a 2011 Census, which showed that 23% of people in Indians walk to work, and another 13% commuted via cycle. Whereas only a minuscule 2.7% of Indians commuted via car. Yet city planners continue to design cities around motor vehicles, which has resulted in 50% of all automobile-related fatalities being pedestrians and cyclists.

Participants included TV Anchor Maniesh Paul (Middle)

The first Raahgiri Day in 2013 drew a crowd of 10,000 people, with the following year seeing participation up to 25,000, more than double! These numbers were a clear indication that the people of Gurugram were receptive to the benefits of non-motorable transport.

The movement was the precursor to the Cycle Day movements which have taken place in almost 70 cities across the country. Sarika’s efforts to promote cycling in Gurugram through Raahgiri Day have also now inspired the Central Government to take note of this.

Sarika Being Recognized for her Efforts on Sustainable Mobility by
Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar

The Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs launched the ‘Streets for the People Challenge’ which hopes to inspire cities to create walking-friendly streets through quick measures. The Challenge will support cities across the country to develop a unified vision of Streets for People in consultation with stakeholders and citizens.

As of this month, Sarika with the support of the Raahgiri Foundation and Nagarro, have successfully managed to get the Gurugram Administration to develop a 12km long, 5-meter wide dedicated cycling track in the city.

Dedicated Bicycle Track in Gurugram

This is one of the first of it’s kind in in the State of Haryana, and aims to make cyclists feel safe and respected in a State notorious for high-speeds and busy highways.

THE ROAD AHEAD

Gurugram, like many other cities, is witnessing a healthy increase in recreational cyclist but the share of cycling commuters is going down steadily. This means while people are happy to cycle for their fitness (mostly early morning) are not willing to cycle to work.

Sarika believes that this is a clear indication that cyclists do not feel respected on the road and that’s because of the road infrastructure is not conducive to cycling. Besides, Sarika also recognizes that cycling is seen as a poor man’s mode of transport. Therefore, the image of cycling needs a complete overhaul. This will start by providing safe infrastructure for cycling.

High Speed Traffic, and Poor Air Quality are Two Major Challenges

With that being said, Sarika, like many other Mayors across India has seen a change in mindset as a result of the COVID-19 Lockdown, with people opting for cycles as a mains of transport instead of crowded buses and metro trains.

This surge in ridership is bound to increase the momentum around sustainable mobility, as apart from the personal benefits it offers, it is also a way out of the choking pollution which cities like Gurugram and Delhi regularly face through the year.

Going forward, Sarika would like to concentrate on three areas

  1. Work with the city administration to create more cycling infrastructure in the city so that cyclist feel invited on the roads.
  2. Work with corporates and private companies to provide incentives for employees to come to work on a bicycle when they are not working from home.
  3. Create rider support groups to allow people to get over their fear of riding alone, and to ease them into the activity.

We wish Sarika the very best at her stint as the Bicycle Mayor of Gurugram. Like most sprawling and crowded cities, Gurugram can definitely benefit a lot from its citizens taking to cycling as a means of transport, fitness, and sport.

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